Can we talk about a huge issue I had last night?

Healthy Crockpot Mini Turkey Meatballs I

There was… SO… much good TV to be watched. Yes, TV. As in television. Like so much good TV on that I hated myself and wished I was laying in bed reading because my brain felt like it was going to explode from each show I was waiting for, which made me feel like I was outrageously lazy and boring and excited and such a millennial stereotype all at the same time. It was so much fun.

It also could have been arguably worse. It could have been reality TV.

It was not. I am proud.

Healthy Crockpot Mini Turkey Meatballs I

I’ve made it no secret that Sundays really aren’t my cup of tea. I mean, I love them… but I hate them… and they’re okay. But I gotta say, my blues get totally beaten with not only good food, but good TV shows. I’ve always been a slave to HBO programming and yes, I totally want to live inside Boardwalk Empire and I’m pretty convinced it is real life and is happening somewhere in the world (sort of like how every time I’m in Jersey I expect to see Tony Soprano walking the streets or something and when I hear about diseases I wonder why they can’t be cured with an injection of V) and you just can’t compete with Homeland and things on a screen that consist of people actually acting. Like acting for real.

I mean, Homeland?

Are.You.Serious. ????

Healthy Crockpot Mini Turkey Meatballs I

So because of all this nonsense, Sundays usually involved some sort of fun food.

Some sort of comfort food.

Some sort of food that warms you to the soul and that fills you up in the way that only Sunday night can.

Healthy Crockpot Mini Turkey Meatballs I

Enter: meatballs.

Instead of packing these meatballs with panko (my high-maintenance bread crumb of choice), I used some leftover quinoa stuck in the fridge. Oh my fridge. Ugh. Such a disaster. A mess. Cluttered with so much food. Seriously – do NOT let me buy one more autumn-flavored fruit butter or one more block of cheese or one more tub of hummus or one more slab of bacon. I need to eat all the foods.

But so, I’m sort of in love with this idea now… the whole quinoa in meatballs thing. I know. I’ve been trendily punching you in the face each week with quinoa but I’ve done it. I’ve drank the koolaid. I’m a fan. Even more so now after how delicious these were. It’s like a whole new quinoa possibility world opened for me. How annoying.

Extra health in my meatballs? Winning.

Healthy Crockpot Mini Turkey Meatballs I


Healthy Crockpot Mini Turkey Quinoa Meatballs

Yield: makes 40-50 mini meatballs

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 6 hours

Total Time: 6.5 hours


1 pound 99% lean ground turkey breast
1 pound 94% lean ground turkey
2/3 cup cooked quinoa (preferably cooked in flavored stock)
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely grated romano cheese
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 large sweet onion, sliced into thin rounds
2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes


In a large bowl, combine turkey, quinoa, garlic, beaten egg, olive oil, cheese, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly but quickly, just so the ingredients are combined - do not overmix! Roll into mini balls - slightly smaller than a golfball, and place on a baking sheet.

Layer sliced onion on the bottom of the crockpot and add 1 can of crushed tomatoes.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat (mine was actually almost high) and add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Add meatballs, searing on the top and bottom until golden, about 1 minute per side. To flip meatballs, gently toss with a spoon. I also shook the pan a few times to roll the meatballs around - if you pan is hot enough this works! Add meatballs one at a time to the crockpot. Repeat with remaining meatballs - it is okay to stack them once they are all finished.

Once all the meatballs are in the crockpot, add the other can of crushed tomatoes, completely submerging the meatballs. Cook on low for 6 hours. Serve!

{don't skip the browning step! it helps seal the juices in so the meatballs are tender and also keeps them from becoming one giant mess of meat in the crockpot.}
{if desired, you can brown the meatballs one day (such as the day before) and then refrigerate until ready to use. you can also freeze the same way!}

[meatballs adapted from my bite sized baked meatballs]

Healthy Crockpot Mini Turkey Meatballs I

You don’t even want to know how many times I burnt my mouth on these.

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149 Responses to “Healthy Crockpot Mini Turkey Meatballs.”

  1. #
    Aimee @ ShugarySweets — October 1, 2012 @ 6:52 am

    Ooooh healthy. Who are you? Kidding! Love these!


  2. #
    sally @ sallys baking addiction — October 1, 2012 @ 6:55 am

    Quinoa in meatballs! I love that Jessica! And sundays are just THE WORST. Which is why I leave a lot of my baking FOR sundays. Just starts my week off on the right, sweet note! Oh, and there is SO much hummus in my fridge right now. And I speed-eat it. Where does it all come from!!!


  3. #
    Rodzilla (@RodzillaReviews) — October 1, 2012 @ 7:08 am

    the quinoa sounds awesome. These are like some new age healthy arancini meatball hybrids.

    so if you paired these with a grain, what would you use..more quinoa?


    • Jessica — October 1st, 2012 @ 4:56 pm

      I’d probably do something a little heartier… maybe like farro? You can’t really taste or even notice the quinoa in the meatballs once they are cooked.


  4. #
    Kim in MD — October 1, 2012 @ 7:08 am

    I know what you mean about all of the good tv shows on now. I have been forced to record most of them, because I just can’t watch everything at once! The meatballs look amazing, Jessica. I love the addition of the quinoa!


    • Kim in MD — October 1st, 2012 @ 7:15 am

      Jessica- I went to print the recipe for the these meatballs and was totally blown away by that photo above the recipe. You can see the smoke wafting above that bowl of meatballs! What a stunning photo!


      • Jessica — October 1st, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

        Aw, thanks so much Kim!

  5. #
    Haniela — October 1, 2012 @ 7:09 am

    Totally delicious, This is something I’d definitely make.
    Love that you added healthy grains too.


  6. #
    Anele @ Success Along the Weigh — October 1, 2012 @ 7:10 am

    I imagine those are nice and filling too. Yum!


  7. #
    Lauren at Keep It Sweet — October 1, 2012 @ 7:19 am

    Sunday nights are definitely mad for lounging and comfort food. These sound amazing. I love that you combined the 2 different turkeys – I always try to get away with just the 99% but it really is a little bit too lean.


  8. #
    Alicia — October 1, 2012 @ 7:26 am

    Taped the Mentalist to watch today while kids are in school. My daughter requested Lasagna for tonight ,but the meatball look more intriguing .
    Do you do pasta with it?
    Or a crusty loaf of bread?


    • Jessica — October 1st, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

      Yep, either! My husband is the pasta fan but I am more the bread fan.


  9. #
    Sara — October 1, 2012 @ 7:32 am

    Completely understand about the fact that ALL the good shows are on Sunday nights. Agh! I wish I had Showtime so I could watch Homeland, but with Revenge, Once Upon a TIme, and The Good Wife, I would be in TV overload…or not. Love this recipe, can’t wait to try it!


  10. #
    Liz @ Tip Top Shape — October 1, 2012 @ 7:50 am

    Sunday night televison is really the only reason to wake up on Sundays. These meatballs look great!


  11. #
    Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat — October 1, 2012 @ 7:51 am

    Hehe I made chili this weekend and it was so good, I burned my mouth several times on it as well! I can’t say I’m a huge TV watcher but it sounds like you had plenty to keep you distracted from the fact that today is Monday!


  12. #
    Leanne @ Healthful Pursuit — October 1, 2012 @ 7:52 am

    There is really great TV happening right now, isn’t there? We just started watching Once Upon a Time. A bit cheesy at times, but anything with Cinderella and Snow White in it and I can’t take my eyes off of it. On the other hand, Homeland, Walking Dead, Dexter… AH! I can’t wait for these guys to start!


  13. #
    DessertForTwo — October 1, 2012 @ 7:56 am

    You are my go-to person for meatball recipes! Yours are always delicious! Can’t wait to try this crockpot version!


  14. #
    Joelle (on a pink typewriter) — October 1, 2012 @ 8:41 am

    This meal sounds so lovely! I want.


  15. #
    Christie @ Beauty and the Bod — October 1, 2012 @ 8:57 am

    Ok you’re a genius!! I just bought a crockpot and I’m loving all these new recipes for it :o). Have you seen Boss? So good! That was my Sunday activity! ღ


    • Jessica — October 1st, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

      I have not… guess I gotta watch it!


  16. #
    Kare @ Kitchen Treaty — October 1, 2012 @ 9:04 am

    Okay, quinoa is a brilliant addition to meatballs. Smart cookie (no matter how much TV you watch)!


  17. #
    Ashley — October 1, 2012 @ 9:06 am

    Totally with you on the HBO shows. I somehow didn’t start watching Boardwalk Empire because there just isn’t enough time to watch them all!! Chris watches it, so sometimes I catch parts of episodes. Maybe I’ll catch up one day. buuut Homeland…uh yah…and I can’t remember but please tell me you watched Newsroom???


  18. #
    Amanda @ The Dormestic Goddess — October 1, 2012 @ 9:11 am

    I am slow cooker-less (thanks to a tiny apartment with no counter space),but these sound too phenomenal to pass up. I’m thinking of just doing them in a big pot on the stove instead, do you think that’d work?


    • Jessica — October 1st, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

      Definitely! Just make sure to still brown them first.


  19. #
    Hayley @ The Domestic Rebel — October 1, 2012 @ 9:26 am

    OMG, meatballs are my jam! I love them mini-fied, which technically means in some sciencey way that you can eat more. Right? Yes. And I super love that these are both healthy AND turkey. Love it.


    • Jessica — October 1st, 2012 @ 4:54 pm



  20. #
    Meg @ Peaches and Cake — October 1, 2012 @ 10:02 am

    Would love to try these with my homemade tomato sauce and whole wheat spaghetti! I feel so guilty eating sausage meatballs but these look delicious and healthy. Thanks Jessica!


  21. #
    Margaret @ Have a Good Run — October 1, 2012 @ 10:06 am

    I just got a Crock Pot – seems like the perfect way to break it in!


  22. #
    Averie @ Averie Cooks — October 1, 2012 @ 10:51 am

    I love that you made them mini and worked some quinoa into them! And a crock pot -even better!


  23. #
    Carly @ Snack Therapy — October 1, 2012 @ 11:02 am

    I love anything that can be made in a crockpot (I’m lazy). And anything mini (so I can eat more).


  24. #
    Bri — October 1, 2012 @ 11:55 am

    Totally crazy about adding the quinoa, such a perfect Sunday meal!


  25. #
    Laura (Blogging Over Thyme) — October 1, 2012 @ 12:10 pm

    I love the idea of adding quinoa to meatballs–because it is a really moist grain (ugh, hate that word–but true) and has a nice texture, without being too much or too noticeable. Plus, more protein! :)


  26. #
    Morgan — October 1, 2012 @ 12:57 pm

    Genius! I would never think to try quinoa in place of bead crumbs. I love the idea. Thanks, Jessica :)


  27. #
    Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes — October 1, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

    We are totally on the same wave-length sometimes! I was just thinking I wanted to make mini meatballs in the crock pot for a party next weekend. Thanks for the recipe!


  28. #
    Bethany @ Accidental Intentions — October 1, 2012 @ 1:16 pm

    Um, yes please. I have more quinoa than you can shake a stick at, so it looks like I have some meatballs in my future!


  29. #
    mary @ what's cookin with mary — October 1, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

    You had me at crockpot. Sounds like something we’d love. I’m on a mission to do one crockpot recipe a week on Wed’s. I also like the idea of making the meatballs and then freezing them for later. Maybe even make two batches… one for now, one for later. Great idea!


  30. #
    Tracey — October 1, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

    Can I just tell you how glad I am that Homeland is back?!? I live for that show on Sunday nights. Anyway, I’d definitely be down for a big plate of your meatballs and a Sunday on the couch. I think I recorded 7 hours of shows last night :)


    • Jessica — October 1st, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

      I’m right there with ya.


  31. #
    Katie @ Blonde Ambition — October 1, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

    Quinoa in meatballs……..genius.

    I’ve been wanting to get into Downton Abbey and Homeland, but I’m too busy getting caught up on How I Met Your Mother and Breaking Bad. Oh gawd, and when are Mad Men and The Walking Dead coming back?? TV rules my life.


    • Jessica — October 1st, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

      We love Walking Dead too!


  32. #
    allie@sweetpotatobites — October 1, 2012 @ 3:34 pm

    i love the addition of quinoa in the meatballs – i’m always looking for ways to incorporate quinoa into dishes since i seem to have so much of it all the time.


  33. #
    Meme @ Living Well Kitchen — October 1, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

    Love the idea of adding quinoa to meatballs! And using the crock-pot for them is pretty nice too. Perfect for when I’m not in the mood to stand too long in my kitchen
    And my sentiments towards Sundays are exactly the same as yours. Sundays have always made me feel a little bit down but laying & making some sort of comfort food + good TV can definitely ease the Sunday blues!


  34. #
    dervla @ The Curator — October 1, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

    yum! time to break out the crockpot. And also, i have no shame, i’ll readily admit that i watch way way too much tv, and even worse? It’s reality tv. Like the real housewives of NJ, amazing reunion! Not even ashamed about it. But then i’ll make myself feel more intelligent with a little Downton Abbey (another sunday night special)


  35. #
    Cher @ Weddicted — October 1, 2012 @ 6:18 pm

    How creative! And I love anything that I can do in a Crockpot!

    I hear ya about the cluttered fridge. I got back from vacation and my fridge looked great! I even threw out all old (read: 2 years) condiments, etc. Now.. it’s back to it’s regular stuffed-to-the-brim self :(


  36. #
    Nomadic Samuel — October 1, 2012 @ 8:06 pm

    I think its great to have a fun day for food. Those look absolutely delicious. Where I’m based now in Korea it’s extremely hard to find turkey.


  37. #
    Lauren — October 1, 2012 @ 8:24 pm

    I love the idea of using quinoa in these! Looks fantastic!!!


  38. #
    Kristen — October 1, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

    Look at that steam!
    And I couldn’t find anything to watch last night, so my husband and I settled in and watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s for the 8 zillionth time. Have you seen that movie? Audrey Hepburn. So good and quirky! I love it.
    I love these meatballs too!


  39. #
    The Meaning of Me — October 1, 2012 @ 10:34 pm

    Quinoa in meatballs – great idea. We love quinoa here, and there is always some left from one meal or another. May need to try this one for meatball subs.


  40. #
    Jennifet — October 1, 2012 @ 11:30 pm

    These look great! I never thought to make meatballs in my slow cooker, but I’m going to try it these this week.


  41. #
    yarden — October 2, 2012 @ 4:25 am

    It looks delicious!!!!! and healthy too. Yummy!!


  42. #
    Kim@hungryhealthygirl — October 2, 2012 @ 8:21 am

    These look delicious and I love the creativity of adding quinoa in.


  43. #
    Alyssa — October 2, 2012 @ 8:47 am

    Those look awesome! And they are GF!


  44. #
    Loretta E — October 2, 2012 @ 9:05 am

    I could eat these now, for breakfast! Even if they’re cold from the fridge, which I usually hate. Extra awesome that they’re crockpot….


  45. #
    Stefanie @ Sarcastic Cooking — October 2, 2012 @ 9:14 am

    These are perfect for hours of premium cable viewing. Homeland is probably the best show on TV right now. I love that we share the same love for HBO! Did you ever watch The Wire? That was an amazing show.


  46. #
    Silvia — October 2, 2012 @ 10:25 am

    Amazingnessssssssssss……..No one likes being, wait, not being, everyone likes BEING healthy, but eating healthy? Not so much. Finding ways to eat things that are healthy, but taste oh so good, is PRICELESS indeed.


  47. #
    Katie @ Oh Shine On — October 2, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

    totally solid choice.


  48. #
    Kristen M. — October 2, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

    Quinoa instead of breadcrumbs. You are a genius! I cannot wait to try these out and what a perfect Sunday meal. I have HBO but not Showtime, but now I’m interested in checking out Homeland especially after watching the Emmy’s recently.


  49. #
    Natalie @ In Natalie's Shoes — October 2, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

    YUM!! This sounds easy, delicious, and healthy!


  50. #
    Keisha — October 2, 2012 @ 1:11 pm

    Quinoa instead of bread crumbs!! Genius!! Do you think barley would work too? And I get a real bad case of the Sunday blues every weekend….haven’t quite figured out how to beat it yet.



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